In the final two months of the year nineteen hundred and sixty, Mitch faced a life-changing challenge, and I learned that I was a “person of interest”. The FBI wanted to learn more about me and my life in the USSR, and I was invited to go to Washington D.C. to meet with the bureau and their Soviet experts.
My employment portfolio was tainted, and no one apparently was interested in hiring an American who had spent thirteen years in the USSR; Mitch discovered that William Randolph Hearst was not interested in the metropolitan Detroit market and, after lengthy negotiations sold The Detroit Times to The Detroit News.
Like the one-thousand five hundred employees who were receiving their weekly paychecks from the Times, Mitch received a telegram late Sunday, November 6, that stated, in part “…It is not necessary for you to report to work on Monday November 7, 1960…your paycheck will be available on your usual payday in The Detroit Times’ lobby…”
Although hundreds of Times’ employees showed up the next day to collect their belongings, empty their desks, pick up personal items, and bid their colleagues a farewell, none were permitted into the building, which was locked for the first time since Hearst had purchased the property in 1900.
This was not a merger of two great Detroit newspapers and some of the best journalistic talent in the industry left Detroit to find employment in various markets. Mitch and some of his colleagues combined their talents for a while and published a weekly newspaper.
When he was offered a position in Ohio, Mitch and his wife, Rose, who were raising three children, one that was only fourteen months old, had some serious decisions to make. Should they pack up the family and go to Ohio, leaving behind most of Mitch’s family, including his mother, father, and brothers, or stay in Detroit? The weekly venture was not turning a profit; the community could not/would not support the publication.
Eventually Mitch accepted the position in Ohio. Rose stayed in Detroit with the children and found a part-time position with the Melvindale-North Allen Park schools. The school system soon discovered that it had someone special in this energetic and intelligent young woman and eventually offered her a full-time position. I have been reminded more times that I can recall by Rose of the ancient Armenian saying, that my grandmother had always told me, “It is the woman of the house who maintains it and keeps the man standing.”
So the children – Grace, who was six at the time, Janet, 4, and Karen, fourteen months – would have the love and care of their mother and grandparents, but see their father only on weekends. Mitch had accepted a position on the editorial staff of the prestigious Citizens Journal in Columbus, Ohio, and loved the job, but not being away from his “girls”. The separation from family eventually persuaded Mitch to return to Michigan and the family where he belonged and would eventually join the staff of The Macomb Daily.
With all Mitch’s problems, I did not want to bother him with mine.
And I had problems…in Washington. After years of living in the shadows of Soviet agents and informers, I again needed to prove who I was, this time to my native land. Tired to the point that I failed to cooperate, one FBI agent during a session asked, “But, Mr. Mooradian, I thought you said you love your country!”
“Yes,” I replied, “I do. But, after all of this s— I wonder if my country loves me!”
My week in December had started off with a lie detector test and continued with daily meetings with those who wanted to be sure I was who I said I was; find out what I did in the USSR and where I had traveled in the USSR. It ended in a darkened room and an encounter with a Russian-speaking shadow that I firmly believe was a former officer of the KGB. The meeting would have ended in a physical confrontation, if not for the quick intervention by my FBI handler.
As Mitch built a career on his bedrock of his integrity, becoming the managing editor of The Macomb Daily, I enrolled at Wayne State University to re-Americanize myself. I graduated with a major in journalism, certainly not the direction that I thought I would take when I had left high school.
My first job was at The Dearborn Press, covering high school sports, and then I moved over to The Dearborn Guide to add city council and the police/court beat. Eventually I was contacted by Ray Clift, who had followed my high school basketball career and was a partner in a chain of weekly newspapers in western Wayne County. He offered me a position at their main office in Wayne, Michigan. Media mogul John McGoff, seeking to add and extent his political influence, purchased the paper and turned it into a daily, renaming it The Daily Eagle.
One day I walked into the newsroom and glanced over at the Managing Editor’s Office. I thought I saw a familiar face. I made a move to get a closer look. The door opened and Mitch walked out. Surprised and happy to see him, I greeted him with a smile.
He said simply, “Mr. Mooradian, please step into my office.”
I wondered what the hell was going on. He told me to sit down.
“I’m your boss, now,” he said.
I didn’t say a word. But I was stunned.
And then my boss said, “You’re fired!”
Read the full “Mitch and Me” series:
Mitch and Me: A Posthumous Tribute to a Childhood Friend
Mitch and Me: The Years of the Great Depression
Mitch and Me: Iconic Moments of Friendship
Mitch and Me: Challenges in a New World
Mitch and Me: Explaining the Inexplicable
Mitch and Me: A Divergence
Mitch and Me: The Final Chapter to an Epic Life
Mitch and Me: The “Contract” is Null & Void